Code enforcement "cutting community slack"

Posted by Jessi Turnure

PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) -  With all the recent rain, it has been difficult for Region 8 homeowners to keep their lawns up to par with city codes.

The Paragould Code Enforcement officer said his office has received about 20 complaint calls a day because of this.

"Last time this year, we were in a drought and, of course, the calls this year, because of the rain, it's just been some times unbelievable. It's just all we can do to try and keep up with it," officer J.D. Stephenson said.

Stephenson said he understands why people have not been able to mow recently.

"We try to cut them some slack as far as what the code says. People have a hard time getting out and mowing. There's a lot of lawns I've noticed that are usually well kept, but because of the conditions, people haven't been able to get out there and mow them like they normally would. And we understand that, but when it gets knee tall, something has to be done. Hopefully, before it gets that tall."

This is when the city will intervene. Stephenson said the city does not have specific requirements on how tall the grass can be. Instead, he said it takes a "common sense approach."

"There are some people who just won't do it until they are forced to do it."

Stephenson said when he receives a complaint, he verifies it and sends a certified letter to the home owners. They then have seven days from when they received the letter to fix the problem.

But Stephenson said many letters are undeliverable, which means it could take almost a month for the city to get those letters back.  This turns the process into almost five weeks before the city can mow an overgrown lawn.

"That creates problems. Say the lawn is a foot tall at the time of the complaint, by the time we can get our hands on it it's a lot higher than that. People get frustrated, they get upset. But really we're just waiting on the process to work," Stephenson said.

But the homeowner pays if it gets to this point.

"We put a lean against their property taxes and when they go to pay their property taxes of course the lean is attached to their taxes and it could range any where from $85 to $350."

Stephenson said the city has already had to mow 200 properties so far this year.

However, one Paragould resident does not let the rain keep him from making his neighborhood up to par. Bill Climer finds joy in what many think is a chore.

"Something to do to get me out of the house. I love it. Well, it keeps me healthy," Climer said.

This 70-year-old not only enjoys cutting his lawn, but his neighbors', too. He currently mows six lawns.

"I can do my trimming today while it's still wet. But, with this rain, everything's catching up with me."

It usually takes him one day to mow all six lawns, but, with the rain, it has taken weeks.

"Otherwise, I'd be done for the month. I charge everybody by the month. I don't charge them a whole lot. I just charge enough to take my wife out to dinner once in awhile."

He runs a small business with a good mission.

"I just try to help out the ones that don't have a lot of money to pay. I'm the poor man's lawn care."

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